She became very angry and told me, “You don’t have to be a jerk about it.” I shrugged my shoulders and said, “But saying ‘You can’t afford that’ isn’t being one?” She stalked off in a fit of anger. We walked away and decided to ignore her going forward.
Was I being overly sensitive? I guess it doesn’t really matter, because we only ever have small talk with her. No friendship has developed from our interactions.
Nor is it likely to, Miss Manners thinks. You responded to rudeness with more rudeness, which did not make you feel better, did not make your neighbor reconsider her own behavior, and increased the total sum of unhappiness in the world. For any one of those reasons, she would have thought it did matter.
Dear Miss Manners: My father passed away two years ago. He was not a religious man, strictly a “weddings and funerals” kind of person when it came to church, and did not hold clergy in high regard.
When he died, our family requested that in lieu of flowers, people make donations to an educational foundation he and my mother set up, or to the wonderful hospice facility that cared for him so well in his final weeks. Although many honored that request, many more instead gave money to their churches for a certain number of Masses, or even perpetual Masses, to be said for his soul.
While this might seem worthy to the giver, it bothered me. Nonetheless, we wrote thank-you notes to each person because we recognized their gesture of doing “something” in honor of my father.
But wasn’t that telling them that next time, they should repeat the same thing for others who might not appreciate it? Sure enough, when my mother passed away a few months ago, we went through the same exercise.
Why do people ignore the grieving family’s wishes? And what is an appropriate way to respond without encouraging the gesture in the future?
By not encouraging donations at all. With due deference both to the American entrepreneurial spirit and to your own loss, funerals are not fundraising opportunities.
They are not even gifting opportunities, as the honoree unfortunately is no longer in a position to derive any pleasure from the thoughtfulness of their loved ones. One brings food or flowers as a sign of respect — and to provide the widow or child some immediate assistance as they grieve.
Miss Manners agrees that you will still have to express thanks, but perhaps friends who have not been instructed to make donations will be more inclined to grieve with you.
New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.